5 great adventures await travelers to the north Georgia mountains

RABUN COUNTY, Ga. — What’s on your bucket list? Looking to check off a new adventure or make some memories with a new experience?

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Here are five great adventures to enjoy in and around Rabun County in the north Georgia mountains.

Let’s start on Chattooga River with some whitewater rafting, a river and adventure that owes some of its popularity to a 1972 movie starring Burt Reynolds.

“The movie ‘Deliverance’ was filmed on this river back in the early 70s and it was actually one of the things that helped our company going on this river,” Christopher Hess from Southeastern Expeditions told WSB-TV’s Nelson Hicks. “One of our founding guides had a big part in the movie, helping them get down the river. It really got rafting going, kind of creating that rafting explosion in the southeast.”

Hess serves as a guide for Southeastern Expeditions, a company that specializes in trips down the Chattooga. With spectacular falls and an abundance of wildlife, the Chattooga is one of the top destinations for adventurers and thrill seekers.

“(We) went through a couple nice big dip drops, seven to eight feet, those were a lot of fun,” Carson Lester said. “Got thrown around a little bit. When it wasn’t super crazy, the water was calm and a great temperature.”

“It was about as perfect as it gets,” Lester added.

Lester and his dad spent the day rafting down sections three and four of the river. Those sections include class one, two, three, four and five rapids. The Chattooga bears the national designation of a Wild and Scenic River. As such, whitewater rafters will experience a day in nature. There are no homes along the banks, rafters will see minimal other people and a trip offers a chance to truly get away from it all.

“You’re out there. You don’t have your cellphone with you. You don’t have cellphone service,” Geoff Doolittle from Southeastern Expeditions said. “You’re not seeing people on the side of the river for the most part during the day. You’re really in a wilderness experience. If you go out West, there are rivers that will offer that. I think this river is unique in that it’s one of the few rivers, particularly in the southeast, that can offer that, where you truly feel that you’re out in the middle of nowhere.”

Southeastern Expeditions offers overnight trips on the river in addition to kayak outings, too.

The second great adventure has guests flying thru the air at Highlands Aerial Park.

“I would describe (this area) as other-worldly,” Kurt Damron for Highlands Aerial Park said. “It feels like you’re stepping back in time or maybe into like a ‘Jurassic Park’ era type environment. It’s just gorgeous.”

The Park’s main draw is its zipline canopy tour. There are two offerings, the half tour which includes four zip lines that range from 100 to 400 feet in length and 10 to 40 feet off the ground.

“For those who are looking for a little bit more adventure, they can extend on to the back half of the course and experience lines like our signature line, the Squealing Mare, which is 1,550 feet long, just over a 1/4 of a mile and about 210 feet off the ground. So you’re flying like a bird over the treetops and you have 50 to 75 mile long-range mountain views.”

Highlands aerial park is also home to a UTV tour. It’s a meandering biological, historical and geographical tour of the area, with time to explore the plants, trees, beautiful spots and waterfall on the property.

There’s a giant mountain swing, tree climbs and courses for young kids. No matter the age, there’s an adventure waiting at Highlands Aerial Park.

Our third great adventure takes us to water.

Could you climb all 1,062 steps from the top of the Gorge, to the bottom and back up? Known as one of Georgia’s most rugged parks, Tallulah Gorge ranks as one of the most spectacular canyons in the eastern U.S. The gorge stretches two miles long and nearly 1,000 feet deep. It features stunning waterfalls and cliffs.

While hikers can choose from 20 miles of trails, many opt for the Hurricane Falls Loop. The strenuous 2.25-mile hike follows the rim past sweeping overlooks, then down a long staircase to a suspension bridge swaying 80 feet above the falls.

The 531-stair descent to the gorge floor ranks as an easy to moderate hike for beginners, but the 531 stairs back to the top prove much more of a challenge. Don’t miss aesthetic water release days where the water is flowing five times faster than normal. Those are listed on the Tallulah Gorge state park’s website.

With three state parks in the area, there are plenty of other hikes and waterfalls to enjoy.

Our fourth great adventure takes us down the Little Tennessee River on horseback with the Dillard House Stables.

“About half the ride is actually in the water when the weather permits,” Pam Thompson from the Dillard House Stables said. “It’s just something fun for everybody. It’s an easy ride for beginners but advanced riders enjoy it, too.”

Other offerings include scenic farm rides, river rides, private rides, parent-led children’s rides and more.

Remember the thrill of catching your first fish? Our fifth and final great adventure on a trip to Rabun County and the north Georgia mountains is fishing, or rather catching fish. For the first timer, head to Andy’s Trout Farm. The stocked ponds offer a great opportunity for kids to catch their first fish while mom and dad or grandma and grandpa capture the moment.

“We’ve been open since 1965 and right now, we have a lot of third and fourth generations coming, grandparents bringing back the grandchildren, they brought the kids when they were little,” Sonya Cousineau from Andy’s Trout Farm said. “They just come out and catch fish.”

When you’re ready to tackle more of a challenge, there’s fly fishing. Blackhawk Fly Fishing offers guests the chance to fish two private miles of the spring creek fed waters of the Soque River. Expert guides will teach visitors how to land the big one.

“My guides can teach you how to set the hook, read the water, understand the Entomology, what’s working on the water and what flies to use,” Abby Jackson from Blackhawk said.

Whitewater rafting through class five rapids, 1/4-mile zip lines offering great views, hikes deep into a gorge, horseback rides through the river, fishing or fly fishing and catching that first fish; that’s just five of the great adventures that await in and around Rabun County in the north Georgia mountains.

This story is sponsored by Rabun County.